STF strike action in Prince Albert area takes to streets of Shellbrook

Daily Herald File Photo STF President Samantha Becotte

It was a change of scenery for Prince Albert and area teachers walking the picket line on Friday.

Members of the Prince Albert Area Teachers’ Association (PAATA) walked the streets of Shellbrook down to Premier Scott Moe’s constituency office on Main Street.

PAATA President Jean-Marc Belliveau President said they wanted to get Moe’s attention after a frustrating conclusion to negotiations earlier this week.

“We’re doing this for better education for the kids,” he said. “We need proper funding, that’s our main focus. We want properly funded education.”

The STF announced on Tuesday that the two sides had returned to an impasse and that rotating strikes would be occurring in Prince Albert and North Battleford on Friday.

Belliveau estimated that there were nearly 800 teachers in Shellbrook with representatives from Saskatchewan Rivers, Prince Albert Catholic, Association locale des enseignantes et enseignants fransaskois (Conseil des écoles fransaskoises) and the Saskatchewan DLC North Campus in Prince Albert.

Belliveau said he was pleased with the number of teachers who turned out, and the support they received from Shellbrook residents.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Picketers were near Premier Scott Moe’s office as part of STF rotating strikes on Friday.

“I see support here,” he said. “I feel that there is support. I can hear some honking right at the moment.”

While teachers in the North Battleford and Prince Albert areas hit the picket lines, their colleagues across the province withdrew noon-hour supervision services during lunch on Friday. The withdrawal was originally scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 8, but the STF cancelled the planned action after a new bargaining date was announced. When those bargaining sessions fell through, the withdrawal of service returned.

Earlier Friday, the STF notified the public and government to expect an escalation of job sanctions when classes resume on Feb. 26, following the February break. Teachers will provide a minimum of 48 hours notice before any further job action.

“The schools might be closed next week, but people that can negotiate have the opportunity to do so, and I believe that they should go back to the table with a true mandate,” Belliveau said.

Belliveau added that they are looking for more than one-year promises and something sustainable in the future. He said that a true mandate means the ability to change the offer that they have on the table.

STF president Samantha Becotte made an appearance in Shellbrook and spoke to the crowd at the park adjacent to Premier Moe’s office at around noon.

She said that the STF started the week cautiously optimistic that a deal could be reached in the scheduled meetings on Monday and Tuesday. However, that soon changed.

“We had an idea that the government was attempting to play games within the process, but we have approached this in good faith the entire time,” Becotte said.

“We went to the table, hopeful that we could get to an agreement. I would have loved for that to be the message coming out on Tuesday night, but unfortunately the GTBC didn’t return to our scheduled time to bargain.”

Earlier on Friday, the STF stated that the absence of a new bargaining mandate for the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has resulted in the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee declining an invitation to resume negotiations.

“(They are) attempting with their games to invite us back to the table, but they have no new mandate, no authority to negotiate at the table and no commitment to address class size and complexity within the agreement,” Becotte said.

Becotte said she originally planned to be in Prince Albert for the Feb. 1 rotating strike, but couldn’t because of scheduling conflicts. She was glad to connect with local teachers during the protest at the Premier’s office.

“The Premier is the head of the decision-making group within government and he does need to start listening,” she said. “The actions that we have been seeing from this government are showing that they don’t care about public education. They don’t seem to care about making meaningful commitments where they can be held accountable.”

She said that the government has made empty promises and they have been clawed back in the past.

“We’re not going to accept that for our kids,” she said. “Our kids need real commitments where they are going to be supported in schools.”

Becotte said that the government using the words ‘ready to negotiate’ was interesting because there has been no negotiation from that side of the table.

“We’ve received essentially take it or leave it offers. There’s no back-and-forth conversation. We could have had that on Monday, Tuesday, as we heard the government had provided a new mandate but again, that mandate was just a take it or leave it offer and disrespectful to teachers and students,” Becotte said.

She said that they would be willing to be back at the table if the other side of the table was able to engage in negotiations.

“I would love to be able to say that we have reached a tentative agreement over the next week. Unfortunately, the government’s actions are showing that they’re not committed to that process, they haven’t approached it in good faith at all over the last nine months, and if they continue to take that path, then we can expect job action to continue and likely escalate.”

Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) President Jaimie Smith-Windsor, who is also a trustee for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, released a statement on Friday.

She said that 80 per cent of grants to school boards are allocated to staff salaries and benefits. She added that Boards believe in local decision-making, as communities in Saskatchewan are very Diverse.

“We have urban, rural, and northern divisions all with unique characteristics and needs,” she said.

Smith-Windsor added that boards believe class complexity should be dealt with at a local level and not in a provincial CBA.

She said that Building on the Government’s recent funding commitment of $53.1 million, a dedicated fund for local boards will be established to address classroom complexity.

Local committees representing local teachers’ associations, trustees and senior administration will be established to identify and address priorities.

“A framework for reporting will be developed by the Boards of Education, the Ministry of Education, and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, with a

mandate to report at the local level and to aggregate at the provincial level as part

of the Provincial Education Plan,” Smith-Windsor said.

“We believe this meets the needs of students and addresses the concerns of


“This opportunity, outside of bargaining, allows the parties to return to the table.

“We look forward to continued collaboration with our partners, and further, to

returning to the bargaining table to reach a fair and reasonable agreement,” she added.

Becotte said that local divisions cannot raise their revenue by setting education mill rates.

“They can’t generate any additional funds beyond what the provincial government provides them within their budget,” Becotte said.

Becotte said that each year divisions are talking about being provided insufficient funds

“To say that this is up to local school boards sounds good, but they can’t make those decisions. We would love for decisions to be made at the local level, and that’s one of the things that we propose,” Becotte said.

Becotte added that there needs to be accountability that funds will support students and classrooms predictably and sustainably.

She also thanked all of the supporters who came out to the picket line on Friday.

“These aren’t easy situations to be in, but to know that we have the support of parents and students, their families, to know that we have the support of the public, business owners, religious groups have opened their doors to let people in and warm up in the buildings and come out and show their support,” Becotte said.

The government says that they are at the table to negotiate

The Ministry of Education emailed a statement to the Herald stating that their negotiators are at the bargaining table today, ready to bargain.

“The government has moved on a number of items the STF asked for, including the salary mandate, and they have refused to move off their initial proposals, including a 23.4 per cent salary increase,” the statement read.

Outside of bargaining, the government has proposed an agreement with the STF to annualize the $53.1 million in additional funding for class size and complexity.

“Teachers and students should be in the classroom, and the teachers’ union should be at the bargaining table,” reads the statement.